Rachel at work in an art studio

Rachel is exploring the field of commercial art and design at college which is one of her postsecondary goals.

To prepare youth for 21st century life, educators recognize that students need to learn how to access technology and use information that even their teachers cannot predict will emerge in their lifetimes. By learning these skills, students will have the knowledge they need to pursue their goals and become life-long learners. Postsecondary education is an important predictor of post-school achievement and high wage jobs (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2012; U. S. Chamber of Commerce, 2007).


Evidence-based instructional practices are highly beneficial to transition-aged students as well as being predictors of postschool success when pursuing postsecondary education and employment goals (Test, et al., 2009). These practices include providing access to and success in an appropriate course of study, effective instructional practices, a positive school climate that offers academic and behavioral supports, and suitable accommodations and modifications. Transition-aged students will need to make graduation decisions that impact their postsecondary goals. Students with disabilities also need to know the differences between high school and college, what postsecondary options exist for them, and how to pursue their preferred options.

Course of Study

Access to the general curriculum gives students the opportunity to build foundational academic skills, develop a broad understanding of secondary curriculum, use accommodations and modifications for learning, and meet high expectations. In addition, many students who previously did not think they would be able to go to college are now taking college classes as part of their transition plan. Participation in both the general high school education curriculum and in college courses not only meets IDEA requirements, but it also provides preparation for the kinds of courses students may want to take in college.

A course of study is defined by the Office of Special Education Programs as a multi-year description of coursework to achieve the student's desired postschool goals, from the student's current year to the anticipated exit year. The course of study describes the courses needed to align with the student's identified postsecondary goals. It may be an individualized list of courses and/or a narrative focusing on specific skills/knowledge to be learned. The course of study should reflect students' preferences and interests and be related to their needs. It should be stand up to the "Stranger Test": expectations and goals must be clearly stated and transferable to another school.